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The Lost Language of Cranes (1991)
A dark, deep film
I read the book way back in the 80s and I had heard it had been made into a movie. But it was only recently that I decided to look for it on the internet -- and voilà -- it was still there, just about alive. Yes, the film seems a little jaded after all these years, but I think it's a classic. Set in London in the 90s, it's about an intellectual middle class family (mother is a book editor, father a university teacher, son is (I think) a writer). The story was novel enough when the book came out. It was about a son coming out to his parents, thereby creating turmoil in the life of his father, who has been a closet gay all his life, furtively setting it off in porno theaters. The son's openly gay lifestyle is contrasted with the furtive lifestyle of the father. The best part of the movie and book, is the time the author and director gives to exploring the feelings of outrage of the mother. This is not a feel-good kind of movie but it will stay with you for a long time after you've seen it.
The Sorcerer's Apprentice (2010)
One of Hollywood's favourite themes has always been the reluctant hero who is finally persuaded and finally covers himself in glory. And gets the girl too. It worked in Die Hard but it doesn't work in this movie, which is annoying as hell. Jay Baruchel is the reluctant hero here, would be sorcerer's apprentice of the title, except that he'd rather be an ordinary nerd (he says so in so many words). He peed in his pants in front of everyone when he was 10 years old and he hasn't got over it. He whines and acts pathetic right till the end of the movie. He doesn't want to save the world, he just wants to get a date with a girl. Whew. Talk about loosers. He finally see the light in the last 15 minutes, but that's mostly because his girl is threatened. How are we supposed to feel about such a character, who is central to the movie? Baruchel was okay as the under achieving nerd in that other movie whose name I now forget, but here he just ruins the movie.
Superheroes don't incite wars
I'm a great fan of superhero movies and I always go out and watch them on the big screen. This week, Thor was released in India a week before it's release in the USA and I dropped everything to go and see it. I wasn't disappointed. Though Thor is not as famous as Spiderman, Bat man, and I don't recall reading the comic, he is a Nordic God, so that makes him pretty big in the scheme of things right? As it shifts back and forth between earth and Thor's planet in another constellation, the movie uses 3D to great effect, much better than I've seen it used in recent movies like Tron. Chris Hensworth, last seen in The Perfect Getaway, makes for an charmingly adorable Norse God and Anthony Hopkins lends great presence in the role of his father, Odin. Shakespearean actor/director Kenneth Branagh adds lots of theatrical floorish to the proceedings, especially in the relationship between Odin and his two sons. The talented women in this film, Natalie Portman (Thor's would-be lady love), Rene Rousso (thor's mother), don't have much to do. Very little time is given to the romance between Thor and earthling scientist and I think it could possibly have been dispensed with totally (a movie without a love angle? why not?). The running theme of the movie is that good kings (and good superheroes) never incite wars, though they must be prepared for it when there is no other course of action. But it takes the protagonists a while to get this, and there's lots of battle in between.
L'étoile du soldat (2006)
Unexpected gem of a movie
I settled down to watch this movie yesterday because there was absolutely nothing else on cable that I hadn't seen already. I had checked the movie out of IMDb and found it was a French historical/war movie, which sounded vaguely promising. But I was caught totally by surprise when it turned out to be a movie set in Afghanistan.
The movie is based on a true story of a young Russian soldier captured by the mujahiddeen in the early 80s. Instead of killing him, they hold him and gradually he becomes one of them, living in caves, eating the same food, learning the language, even preying through the namaz. The French connection comes from a French journalist who is living among the mujahiddeen and filming the war. But the contact between the Russian and the Frenchman is brief.
The film has a very authentic feel and is beautifully shot in the mountains of Afhhanistan. In the version I saw, there was some narration in English, but the dialoges were in French and Afghani, with sub-titles. I'm so glad our cable channels in India are now showing such off-beat, unusual films.
Enemy at the Gates (2001)
Can see this film again and again
I saw this film once again on cable yesterday and this time I'm writing in to put on record how great it is. I usually don't see a film twice, but there are just these few films (Seven is another one) that grip me every time I see them. Enemy At the Gates is gripping right from the first scene of the wolf in the Urals and it never looses its tension, even as it swings from the Battle Of Stalingrad to the dual between the two snipers (both Jude Law and Richard Harris are fantastic) to the politics of the Stalinist Russia (bob Koskins as Nikita Khuschev is real)to the love triangle that develops between Rachael Weisz, Jude Law and Joseph Feines along the way. What a movie. I wish I'd seen it on the large screen though. The many times I've seen it, it's always been on cable.
what music !
I loved the songs in this film, especially the ones by the Bee Gees (To Love Somebody, Give Your Best To Your Friends, Melody Fair). The CSNY classic Teach Your Children I now appreciate, though I didn't when I saw the film way back in the 70s, when I was in school myself. In fact, I remember our teachers took the whole class to see it and they were quite mortified by the content, which has the school kids ripping off their teacher's clothes and chasing them down the street at the end ! What fun, we kids thought. 30 years later, as I write this, I must say Melody was one of the most memorable films I've seen (and I've seen many !). Who is this wonderful Waris Hussain (the director) and why didn't he make more memorable movies later on?
Welcome to Sajjanpur (2008)
Great to have Shyam Benegal back
It's great to have Shyam Benegal back making films again. He's relaunched himself with a fairly light film, one that reminded me of another of my favorite directors of the 80s, Sai Paranjpe. Both Sai and Shyam are so good at capturing the quirks of village life, warts and all. Welcome To Sajjanpur actually does have some dark elements, but the director doesn't seem to want to ruin India Shining's cheery mood by dwelling on these too much. Be warned, a lot of the language in this film is Bhojpuri, especially the dialogs of Ila Arun. I missed a lot of her funny lines, but the Bhojpuri speaking people in the audience were laughing out loud. The performances of the actors were all great - Shyam is obviously good at casting. Don't know if this film is destines to run for long, so I'd advise everyone to go out and see it right away. Or you could always wait to see it on TV (UTV Spotboy movies make it to TV in 3 months) or buy the DVD (for Rs 50!).
Hustler White (1996)
When the director is also an actor, you know you're in for some painful viewing. This movie is another case in point. LaBruce gets more and more self indulgent as the movie progresses, ending with a long scene of him kissing (very badly I must say) his true love Ward and then prancing away down the beach with him. As if to say 'this is my movie and i can do anything I want!' Totally ridiculous. Why do these directors do it? I guess it's because they can. Yes, there are some really morbid scenes of S&M (the one of the Vercase man being cut with a blade was really awful to watch), amputees etc. but that doesn't make this movie "edgy". I guess I ended up watching it because I'm gay and this is a gay movie, but how I suffered!
29th and Gay (2005)
Sooo Self Indulgent
This is another of a new genre of "self indulgent" gay films where the writer or director also casts himself as the lead actor. He's usually not very attractive, but hey, he's in every frame of the movie, trying to be endearing instead. He's definitely clever, in a Woody Allen kind of way, but ultimately gets so annoying as the film drags on and on, you want to punch his face. One peculiarity of this genre is that the looser hero invariably gets the young dream hunk in the end, without even trying. In this film, it's a gorgeous coffee shop waiter. Through most of the film our looser just pines for him but can't summon up the guts to speak. In the end, this hunk seems to just fall in love with our blabbering looser. Why? Because it so happens that he wrote the script!
Totally Confused (1998)
Very Woody Allenesque
That the writer is inspired by Woody Allen here pretty obvious. With all its slightly off-kilter characters, the story is typically Allen too, except that it's Chicago instead of New York here. Since the writer is also one of the lead actors, he manages a Woody Allenesque dialog delivery. And I think he pulls it off quite well. I love that bit where he describes the sex he's having with his childhood buddy as "male bonding...of a more advanced kind". The gay thing is central to the film, but I liked the other parts too (these days nobody seems to make a wholly gay film. it's considered retrograde). The other story line about this pathological-liar agent convincing our untalented hero his music CD being distributed in Greenland is SO funny. I got this film off an American friend of mine visiting India and I liked it a lot. Wish more people might get to see it.
I See a Dark Stranger (1946)
Dead Body In Wheelchair
I don't usually go for old movies, but I saw this one today (I hadn't even heard of it before and the name sounded ridiculous). But I must say I eventually found the movie to be quite engaging. It's Deborah Kerr's show all the way. Trevor Howard was someone whose name I'd heard and I was a bit surprised at how he looked! I always thought leading men of the 50s were supposed to be very handsome, like Gregory Peck or Mongomery Clift. The best scene in this movie is where Deborah is wheeling this dead body from a hotel to the cliffs to dispose of it. On the way she passes by a cinema (or is it a play house) where the show's just finished and a stream of people come out. Then there's a cad who makes a move on her and then there's policeman who rescues her and then tries to talk to the dead body (who she's trying to pass off as her wheelchair bound grandfather).
Since You've Been Gone (1998)
I love reunion movies
I confess, I love re-union movies. So despite everything, I enjoyed this one. The characters are all a bit exaggerated here and some of them border on the bizarre (especially Lara Flynn Boyle), which makes it all the more fun. Most re-union movies tend to be rather dark in their outlook and this one is no exception. Everyone meets again after ten years, everyone has aged, some have lost their hair, some have lost the potential they showed in high school. Our hero here has mostly lost his sense of humor and become "mean" as his friends (and wife) tell him. Why do re-union movies always manage to strike a chord? Because we all empathize with them. and yes, they provide huge scope for characterization and drama, which this movie manages to do quite well. Though, I must add, it's no patch on the really great re-union movies like The Big Chill.
Gone, But Not Forgotten (2003)
Don't know why, but I enjoyed it
The actors aren't very good looking and don't really act very well. The storyline of a guy with amnesia whose past life is unknown is rather predictable and despite what another reviewer here says, there's really not any "mystery" to it. The movie seems to be shot on a handy cam. But despite all this, I enjoyed the 90 minutes I spent watching this movie and found it to be quite engaging. The lovely locales surely helped. And maybe even the fact that our heroes aren't good looking but are sweet and ordinary (Drew's face reminds me of a cute chipmunk). Anyway, an independent gay movie is bound to suffer when compared to slick Hollywood movies, so I think it's best not to go there. I recommend this movie to all gay people, but don't go in expecting Bareback Mountain.
Citizen Cohn (1992)
Was James Woods better than Al Pacino in Amgels In America?
Where I live, HBO showed Citizen Kohn in the same week it launched into the mini-series "Angels In America". So I can't help but compare James Woods' portrayal of Roy Kohn with Al Pacino's in "Angels.." Of course, Woods had more scope, since his movie was all about Kohn, from childhood to death, whereas Pacino got to play him only in the last part of his life. So we get to see Woods at the army hearings that brought about Kohn downfall and he's at his brilliant best there as he's outmaneuvered and humiliated. But in the final analysis, I'd say the two portrayals were remarkably similar and we got a sense it was exactly the same man. To answer my own question, I think Pacino and Woods were equally good!
Red Dragon (2002)
Great start, but falters
After a terrific beginning, the movie begins to falter somewhere towards the end and climaxes like most other Hollywood movies do. Still, it did manage to keep me hooked for a long part of the way and I'm glad for that. Edward Norton and Anthony Hopkins are both good, though Feinnes as the Rad Dragon is really no great shakes. Loved that first conversation between Hopkins and Norton about the tastiest parts of the human body. I don't know if the cable version I saw had any scenes deleted because I really found nothing very gruesome in this movie, nnless it's the very idea of the killer finishing off whole families. I guess I've been spoilt by movies like Seven. And, of course, the truly horrific ending in Hannibal.
Under Suspicion (2000)
More like a play, interesting dialog
This movie reminded me of "Sleuth", that old movie starring Lawrence Olivier and Michael Caine. It's so much like watching a play. Settings that don't change. Too much dialog. Too few actors. I really think a movie should be a movie and a play should be a play. If things go on like this, we'll have to watch 90 minutes monologues on screen. That said, I liked some of the dialogs, especially the philosophical ones from Gene Hackman about how his neighbors hate him because he's so ordinary but still so rich. And the other one about why it's so natural to be attracted to teenage girls ("If I wanted to talk about the S&P 500, I'd call my stockbroker. Teenage girls don't talk, they laugh. They live for the moment.")
Shattered Glass (2003)
truth so much stranger
I saw this movie with a group of journalists and everyone was amazed at how this whole thing could have actually happened. We also watched an interview with the real Glass on 60 Minutes as part of the DVD special features (where, by the way, it seems like he's gay, though it's not specifically said). I think the temptation to re-phrase quotes and such is always there in print journalism and all of us know a few cases. But very few go so far as to fabricate a quote, and we've never ever known anyone to fabricate a whole person. Whew! What a gripping movie. The last part where he editor takes Glass to the restaurant, convention hall and other places was like a high car speed car chase. Both of them were so brilliant there.
The tension nearly gave me a heart attack
From the very first act, when this creepy 50 year old is doing circles around this boy he's picked, leisurely seducing him, I was hooked to the movie. The next act, when the boy's turned into his slave, groaned in recognition of a situation that's all so real and all too horrible. I just preyed the director wouldn't show the boy being physically beaten. The entry of the girlfriend, after which the two of them make a plan to escape brought a release in tension for a fraction of a second, but I knew it was too good to be true and doubted whether our boy would really manage to escape. The orgy is scene is all too real too, with the young girl thrilled at the bizarre situation she's in and dying for some adventure. I think it was all quite real and I identified with every situation, though I wish I didn't because it just goes to show how evil I am myself!
Macho Dancer (1988)
Boys with no hangs ups
First of all, I was amazed that such a bold film could come out of the Philipines, which I'd always imagined to be a pretty conservative state which would repress a film with so much Young nudity. India has never made such a film, though I have no doubt the story could be Indian too (the difference being that i know of no clubs in Bombay or Delhi or Calcutta which has naked boys dancing on stage - could that really be so common in Manila?). The boys here are of ambiguous sexuality. Are they gay? Or just horny? They seem to do it only with customers and not with each other. And they hang around with girl prostitutes who treat them as "one of us." The main protagonist is actually straight, it turns out, falling in love as he does with a female prostitute. But at the same time, he's perfectly comfortable being a gay rent boy - there's absolutely no angst associated with that and instead there's much bonhomie and fun in the changing room as he teenager prepare to go on stage for their "macho dancing." ! That, I think, was one of the most appealing aspects of this movie.
In einem Jahr mit 13 Monden (1978)
As if the storyline wasn't depressing enough, this movie shows cows being butchered graphically in a slaughterhouse for all of five minutes while the protagonist is narrating her early life as a butcher. Weird stuff. Then there's the core premise of the hero/heroine who goes and cuts his dick off because a he's besot-ten with at work says he would have gone with him if he was a girl. Is this person a psycho, a masochist, just a doomed queen who takes things too far? And what sort of traumatic childhood did he have? Just that he didn't get adopted and had to live it out with nuns who at first loved him and then later hated him because he was unruly. He tries to explain to us the reasons he did what he did, but it's really really so hard to empathize. Such sad and unusual self destruction. Was it supposed to be funny? What was it all about really?
Amor de hombre (1997)
Dialog heavy movie
For one thing, I found the movie terrible verbose, dialog heavy. I was going crazy trying to read the sub-titles and watching the sexy stuff going on the screen at the same time. And in the end, I didn't feel much empathy towards either of the lead characters, especially the guy, who seemed one hell of a selfish pain in the ass to have as a friend. And it seemed weird having one single straight woman and every other character in the movie (including the one guy she's shown dating) turning out to be gay. In the final analysis, the best part of the movie was the birthday cake that was so lovingly baked during the titles - I drooled.
Weapons of Mass Distraction (1997)
I must be real stupid. This movie was too deep for me. I couldn't figure out what was going on for most of the time. For example, why did that guy jump off the roof and kill himself at the end? What was the point of that parallel story about the out of work guy who kills a bus load of school kids? why did the son's helicopter have to fall and put him into a coma? what is it with this Cricket girl? i was actually quite engrossed towards the end because i thought the movie would reveal itself to me and i'd get the answers to all my questions, but alas, it didn't. i guess i'll have to spend many more years researching on IMDb before i'm ready for a movie of this caliber.
Jeepers Creepers 2 (2003)
I thought this was a very homo-erotic movie, explicitly and implicitly. Explicitly because it deliberately takes off on a wholly unnecessary gay tangent with a row of smooth jocks peeing in the field and talking about whether one of them is gay or not (Izzy or Izn't he?). It really had no fit in a horror story plot, but it seemed to say, hey, this is a gay movie. Then there are those loving shots of a row of teenage boys sunning themselves atop the bus. The creature itself seems to go in for eating cute guys. Though it purportedly selects them on the basis of "smelling their fear," I think it's just horny. The way it sticks out its tongue and then licks the window is evilly sexy. Even the last seen has this bare torso-ed guy come to see the Creeper's body. The director seems to be caressing the guy with the camera, telling us - hey, wouldn't you come alive again after 23 years for a taste of this?